Is Soy a Super Food or is it reaking havoc on your hormones?
Well depending on who you talk to you’ll be told one or the other. And like most things in nutrition and health you will be able to find good arguments for both answers.
So what is soy anyways…
To keep it simple; Soybeans are legumes that originated in East Asia, but are now being produced on a large scale here in the U.S..
And how are they used…
Soy is used to make a vast array of foods. Soybeans can be eaten whole. Ever had edamame? That is just an immature type of soybean. But regardless of what it is used for it must be cooked, as they are poisonous when raw.
A few common uses of soy are tofu, soy milk, as well as various dairy and meat substitutes. It is also used in fermented foods such as miso, natto and tempheh.
But did you know…
Over 90% of soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and the crops are sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, which may be associated with adverse effects on health.
On the flip side whole soybeans are rarely consumed in Western countries. So the majority of soy that we find in our diets comes from refined products that are processed.
Soybean oil is extracted using the chemical solvent hexane from the majority of the soy crop here in the U.S.. And its crazy to think that 7% of calories in the U.S. diet came from Soybean oil in 1999.
Once the oil is extracted from the soybean what remains is soybean meal, which is about 50% protein. The majority of this is used to feed livestock, but some is also put through further processing in order to produce isolated soy protein.
With this being cheap and equipped with functional properties, soybean protein and oil have snuck their way into tons of processed foods, so the majority of people in the U.S. are consuming significant amounts of soy without even knowing about it.
Also Soy protein is the major ingredient in soy-based infant formulas.
So is it good…
Well sort of, there is some evidence that soy can lower cholesterol levels, although studies show conflicting results. But men who consume soy are at a lower risk of developing prostate cancer in old age.
So is it bad…
Well sort of, soy contains high amounts of biologically active compounds called isoflavones, which function as phytoestroges (these are plant-based compounds that can activate estrogen receptors in the human body).
Because of this estrogenic activity these isoflavones are often used to ease symptoms of menopause, as well as reduce the risk of bone loss in elderly women. This is risky however because animal studies show that soy isoflavones can cause breast cancer. In human studies they have seen that isoflavones can stimulate the proliferation and activity of cells in the breast.
At the end of the day…
There often is a better alternative to choose from when making dietary choices. Looking for something other than cow’s milk? We recommend giving Almond milk a go instead. If you need more suggestions for alternative choices or have more questions about soy please leave a comment below!